Small Wonder, Large Appreciation
For Friday shoppers whoÂ want to jump to the punchline and avoid the punch, I give you the Nikon winners of the 2014 MicroPhotography competition that spawnedÂ this thread today.Â
I’ve been devoting some thought lately to my idiosyncrasies–those unique and perhaps peculiar ways of seeing, thinking and behaving particular to only me.
Some of them I’m sure came with the package at Day One. Some of each of us consists of molecular hard-wired genetic instructions among which not all are as either-or as the dice-toss for brown eyes or blue. Most of our behavioral genetics come with a wide tolerance for over-riding and subverting in directions that come more from nurture than nature.
The infant ship comes incompletely equipped early on, and by choice and by chance, we add sails and navigation equipment. The maps are both our own and edited by circumstance, serendipity, parenting, early friendships and society.
It’s pointless to try to tweeze out which of our good traits or bad can be blamed on the weird great-great grandparent that nobody in the family line talks about in public. In the end, those unique features belong to us, regardless of how they became part of our who-ness. We wear them, deny them or celebrate them, for better or for worse, for a lifetime.
One of these personal quirks that goes back close to my beginning is a fascination with the very small. I have some specific early memories I’ve written about elsewhere that in my mind support the notion that I’ve always held fantasies about seeing deeper, farther or with expanded clarity since way back. (These imaginings and yearnings were only made stronger with the longing to have x-ray vision like Superman. )
My photographic compulsion and zeal since my early twenties is part of this “lens oriented” need to see things–real concrete physical things and later on, conceptual things as well–with new eyes as often as possible. If we stare too long at the same object with the same eyes, they disappear.
Perhaps the greatest elaboration of this need to see real objects in new ways was in grad school, where IÂ got seriously sidetracked from my thesis study by my fascination with pond water. Yes, pond water. I told you I admitted to some serious behavioral outliers.
And, dear diary, I know I can’t make you fully understand why, but it seemed–and still seems–that these countless hours peering down the tube of a phase contrast oil-immersion microscope at rotifers, diatoms, colonial protozoa and objects that defied identification was one of the most beneficial educational periods of my adult life.
The intricacies, the beauties, the complexitiesof design and fit, of function and microscopic anatomy of appendages, of synchronized beating cilia, of beating hearts, pulsing jaws, flapping flagella, and tiny still nerve plexuses that hinted of thinking brains–all of this to me was a marvelous revelation of the nature of the nature that exists around each of us every day of our lives. And of this beauty, these marvels, this wonder, we are most all mostly unaware, and to what does not exist for us, we are indifferent.
And so I saw them once, thankfully, on my own time, because I was compelled to do soÂ for my own very peculiar vision and world-understanding. I have never been unaware or indifferent or unappreciative for these small wonders ever since. I keep looking for them, only without the microscope, though so much can still be held in our hands that points us toward greater realities.
As I have said so often before, if we hold our eyes just right and have hearts and minds ready to know, there is nothing ordinary.